How to quickly and effectively analyse a poem?

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Although obvious, the first thing you must do is read the poem! After reading two or three times, try an ascertain the premise of the poem: who/what is it about? If this proves difficult, try and determine the themes present (such as love) as well as if there is an overall negative or positive tone.

The form of the poem can be analysed by looking what is on the page. How many stanzas are there? How many lines are there? How is the text laid out on the page? Make sure to link this back to the overall point of the poem as well as to the question asked e.g. the poem is made up of 14 lines which depicts the form of a sonnet which supports the theme of love.

When determining structure, you should think about overall structure, the structure of each stanza and that of each line. Do events described appear in a chronological order? Is there an elliptical (circular) structure? Is there unusual word order used? After answering questions such as these, the following question to ask is 'why'. How this emphasises the point of the poem.

Language analysis of poetry is the same as with prose although there is likely to be more firgurative language. Therefore, it would be prudent to become familiar with terminology to enrich your analysis such as hyperbole, sibilance and lexical sets. As with the previous sections, you must determine why this is relevant.

When analysing a poem, it is unlikely you will have enough time to cover in depth all you have noticed about it. Subsequently, you have to be able to choose the most relevant points as well as the most interesting to discuss in the most depth.

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